Just the other day I was chatting with some friends, primarily mothers of young children. They were feeling anxious about the holiday events already being scheduled. In addition they were feeling nervous about different family members coming to visit. Finally one commented, “I just want to get through it. I want it to be over!”
We can all identify with this in some way.
It is indeed a sad commentary on our culture and on our life styles. What is meant to be a season of celebration has today become a season of stress.
What can we do to alleviate some of the stress and recapture a sense of the true spirit of Christmas before it arrives?
Three things will help.
1. Lower your expectations.
The media often creates a vision of
the holidays as a time of warm family relationships, relatives sitting by the fire roasting chestnuts, children happily giving and receiving, and of course snow falling everywhere. Families sick with the flu, kids fighting over toys, a Dad who isn’t there, painful relationships, a schedule way too full, an unexpected emergency, and the lack of funds are rarely pictured. It is so easy for us to become swept up in what we think it should look like as opposed to the reality. And we tend to think we’re the only ones–surely no one else’s life is like mine!
We need to define realistic expectations for this coming season. Brainstorm with your husband or a close girlfriend. Ask, what do I need to do to live into the great commandments during this season? How can I lesson my expectations on relationships, and grant grace instead of succumbing to disappointment? How can I prepare my children to understand the real meaning of this season?
2. Simplify your life style.
I have found one of the leading causes of stress is that we try to cram too much into these days. We live in a culture that screams, the more, the better. And yet often less is definitely better. Instead of watching your calendar fill up, go ahead now and block out personal time, couple times and family times. Then when that really nice invitation comes along have the courage to say,” I’m so sorry we have a conflict.” It is far easier to set boundaries before the commitments start to pile up. We can also simplify our own traditions. Do you really need to decorate your mailbox because all the other neighbors do? Do you have to give gifts to every family member? Because John and I have large families we’ve always drawn names for siblings and spouses. For years we each gave one gift to one sibling or spouse. Today we just call for a holiday catch-up. Our own 5 children and spouses draw names between each. It simplifies gift giving as well as saving money.
3. Determine what you can delete or postpone.
You may have a tradition of a cookie bake with girl friends. But do you really need to do it at this time? Why not postpone it until the end of January when life is not so packed. You’ll relieve stress and enjoy it more. Or those couples you do a Christmas event with every year? Why not postpone this gathering until a date in the winter? Look at what you have done in the past and determine what to eliminate this year. Be courageous and eliminate 1 or 2 things you usually do and instead declare a family night at home alone. It helps to remember that every time you say “yes” to something you have to say ”no” to something else.
The coming season is a time to Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). We have to be ruthless with our schedules and grant grace in our relationships if we want to soak in the miracles of this season.